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Monday, April 22, 2024

No. 15 Florida blown out by No. 15 Georgia in final game of weekend series

Gators allowed four runs through first three innings

Florida third baseman Charla Echols swings her bat during the Gators' game against the Georgia Bulldogs Friday, April 14, 2023.
Florida third baseman Charla Echols swings her bat during the Gators' game against the Georgia Bulldogs Friday, April 14, 2023.

Georgia junior infielder Ellie Armistead was at-bat with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning. She whacked the ball into center field for a double that brought two runs home.

Gators fans cleared the right-field berm as a sea of red overtook Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium’s record-breaking crowd to end the game.

The No. 15 Florida Gators (31-11, 8-7 SEC) lost to the No. 12 Georgia Bulldogs (33-10, 12-5 SEC) 8-2 Sunday at home. The loss marks UF’s fourth home loss of the season. The Gators allowed seven hits and three home runs.

The loss ended the weekend series in favor of the Bulldogs. A total of 7,168 fans attended the sold out three-game series over the weekend — the highest series attendance in program history.

Sunday’s game had 2,523 fans in attendance, which was the third highest attendance for a regular season game at the ballpark.

“I felt like they opened the doors to Disney World,” Gators head coach Tim Walton said. “Our players don’t take that for granted.”

Florida graduate student pitcher Elizabeth Hightower made her 23rd appearance in the circle this season to begin the opening frame.

The Bulldogs gave the more than 2,500-person crowd a souvenir with a home run by UGA senior infielder Sara Mosley. Georgia led 1-0 with one out in the top of the first inning.

Mosley’s home run was the only hit allowed by Hightower in the first inning. The Gators retired the next two batters to end the top of the inning.

Bulldogs junior pitcher Madison Kerpics walked UF redshirt junior Skylar Wallace for Florida’s first at-bat of the day. Wallace zipped around the diamond to steal second base with sophomore outfielder Kendra Falby at the plate.

Kerpics struck out Falby swinging; Gators graduate student third baseman Charla Echols was caught out in the left field; and sophomore infielder Reagan Walsh was thrown out at first to end the frame.

Georgia sophomore catcher Lyndi Rae Davis grounded out to second base. Senior infielder Sydney Kuma was walked in the beginning of the second inning. She later stole second base with junior outfielder Sydney Chambley at-bat.

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Kuma advanced to third on a fielder's choice that took Chambley out at first base. Bulldogs freshman catcher Marisa Miller singled to bring the California native home and extend UGA’s lead to 2-0.

Hightower struck out Georgia junior infielder Ellie Armstead swinging to end the top of the second inning.

UF graduate student utility player Pal Egan opened the bottom of the second with a single that found some grass in center field. The single was the only hit recorded for Florida in the inning.

Gators senior utility player Sarah Longley was caught out across the third-base foul line to end the second.

UGA sophomore outfielder Dallis Goodnight hit the ball and was called safe to open the third inning after she beat Echols’ throw to first base.

Walton challenged the call to review the play at first. However, Goodnight stepped out of the batter's box before she hit the ball, so she was given a strike and went back to bat.

Goodnight was later caught out by Longley off a lofty pop at home plate from a bunt attempt. The out was the only thing that went Florida’s way in the top half of the inning.

Hightower walked Mosley following the Goodnight out. She then allowed a home run by junior outfielder Jayda Kearney past the center-field wall for two more runs.

UGA redshirt senior Jaiden Fields followed the two-run home run with a double down left field. The bleeding stopped when the Gators’ defense produced two consecutive outs to end the top of the third; UF trailed 4-0.

Kerpics — who pitched 4.2 innings and struck out four batters — struck out Gators junior first baseman Avery Goelz to start the bottom of the inning. UF recorded only one hit through one full rotation of the lineup.

Wallace walked to become the first Florida player to reach first in the third inning. Wallace stole second base with two outs in the inning, but no other Gators made it around the diamond. 

Echols popped out to center field to end the third.

Hightower stepped up in the top of the fourth inning. She forced two straight outs, including an out that beelined straight to her glove. UF’s defense didn’t allow a single hit to end the top of the inning.

Walsh doubled to open the bottom of the fourth — Florida’s first double of the day. The infielder reached third base when Georgia’s infielder chose to throw Egan out at first.

Gators sophomore catcher Sam Roe was in a full-blown chess match against Kerpics. She hit several foul balls in her first at-bat but popped out toward third base. UF junior catcher Emily Wilkie suffered the same fate and was caught out in the infield to end the fourth.

Florida senior pitcher Rylee Trlicek replaced Hightower in the circle in the fifth inning. She kept the Bulldogs from getting on base throughout the inning. Trlicek struck out Kearney looking to end the top of the fifth.

Kerpics walked Longley and Wallace through three batters to start the bottom of the inning. Goelz was caught out between the Gator walks.

After Falby struck out swinging, Echols was walked to give UF its first bases-loaded advantage of the game with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Georgia decided it was time for a change in the circle and turned to graduate student pitcher Shelby Walters to replace Kerpics.

With Walsh at-bat, the crowd behind home plate stood to their feet in anticipation of UF’s first run of the game. 

Walsh singled to right field, which allowed Longley and Wallace to score. Florida ended the fifth inning trailing 4-2.

Fields got past Trlicek’s arm due to an error by Wallace — who failed to collect the ball that was grounded toward her — to open the sixth inning.

The Bulldogs continued to have luck on their side. Davis grounded to Trlicek, and the left-handed pitcher curved her throw to first base past Goelz. Fields ran to third, and Davis advanced to second.

Chamberly reached first via fielder's choice, but the Gators weren’t able to get anyone out. Georgia loaded the bases with one out in the top of the inning.

Miller singled to bring in UGA junior outfielder Hayley Eaton — who pinch-ran for Fields. Armistead followed Miller’s at-bat with a double that hit the center-field wall. Chamberly and Goodwin — who pinch-ran for Davis — scored to give the Bulldogs a 7-2 lead after the top of the sixth.

UF was shut out with three consecutive outs to end the sixth inning.

Kearney homered out of the ballpark off Trlicek’s first pitch in the seventh inning to make it take an 8-2 advantage. The Gators regrouped to end the top of the inning with three consecutive outs.

Wallace singled to UGA’s shortstop after a Goelz out to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Falby followed suit with a single of her own.

Despite the late efforts, Echols grounded to second base, and Georgia finished the game with a double play.

The Gators finished the game with five hits and only scored twice in one inning — the lowest total for both categories in the entire series.

“We got too caught up in the things we were doing wrong instead of going out there swinging,” Wallace said. “We faced the same pitchers this whole weekend — it’s not like they came out with too many new pitches.”

Florida will stay in Gainesville to prepare for the South Florida Bulls Wednesday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.

Contact Brandon Hernandez at bhernandez@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @BranH2001.

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Brandon Hernandez

Brandon Hernandez is currently the enterprise sports writer and sports podcast host for The Independent Alligator. He likes long walks on the sidewalk and watching basketball tape in his off time. You can find most of his work @BranH2001 on X and on The Courtside Podcast on Spotify.


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